Detroit Free Press: Dingell & Miller: A tribute to the women who fueled the Arsenal of Democracy
In 1942, Mildred Crow Sargent was a teenage mother from Tennessee who migrated to Detroit to work in an aircraft assembly plant as part of America's massive mobilization for WWII.
And, as she told a New York University "Real Rosie the Riveter" history project in 2010, she was "the fastest riveter" in the place.
So fast that the plant overseers encouraged her to slow production down a bit.
Sargent said she replied, "Those soldiers (on the battlefield) can't slow production. If someone comes at them with a gun, they've got to shoot."
After that, she said, "They didn't bother me anymore."
Sargent's spirit was emblematic of the attitude of millions of American women who flooded traditionally male workplaces in the 1940s to produce munitions and otherwise support the war effort. A spirit that was captured in song, promotional films and in the iconic "We Can Do It!" bulging-bicep and red-polka-dot-bandanna Rosie the Riveter poster.
This year, we are celebrating the contributions of those patriots who made victory in WWII possible, and in the process irrevocably changed the perception of American women in the workplace.
Today, on the first day of Women's History Month, we will submit into the congressional record a tribute to America's Rosies.
It will read, in part, "Through your service during the Second World War, you played an invaluable role in the war effort and victory as part of the Greatest American Generation. Your rigorous work and passionate love of our great country is arguably what sustained the American people, at home and abroad, during a volatile time of war and uncertainty."
Later, on March 22, dozens of "Original Rosies" will fly from Detroit to Washington D.C. to visit the memorials built in their honor, courtesy of Talons Out Honor Flight, Ford Motor Company Fund, and the Yankee Air Museum.
As the Arsenal of Democracy in WWII, Michigan's ties to the rise of the Rosies and the successful prosecution of the war are deep and lasting.
The woman most often cited as the embodiment of a real-life Rosie the Riveter was a young Kentucky native, Rose Will Monroe, who worked on the production of B24s and B49s at the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti. It was there, in 1944, she was spotted by a Hollywood star working on promotional films for the sale of war bonds, and shortly thereafter became a star in her own right.
The inspiration for the "We Can Do It!" poster was another Michigan factory worker, Geraldine Hoff Doyle, employed briefly by an Ann Arbor-area metal stamping plant, long enough to be captured in a UPI photograph that became the model for America's most famous Rosie.
Monroe and Doyle are both gone now. But their stories, and the stories of the millions of American women who answered their country's call in WWII to go to work, will resonate for generations.
This is our history in Michigan, and it’s a history that needs to be remembered, taught and preserved, just as it was last year at Willow Run, when more than 2,000 women, including 43 “Original Rosies,” took back the Guinness World Record for the most Rosies gathered in one place since WWII. These women continue to move us with their grace, gusto and love for our country.
As we say for the congressional record: "You inspire us, and we will continue to tell your stories to our children and grandchildren, to ensure that the American spirit which you embody will never leave our hearts."
Candice Miller, a Republican from Harrison Township, represents Michigan's 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Dearborn, represents Michigan's 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.